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CALEA and crash reporting

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles McHenry County, Illinois

CALEA and crash reporting

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
November 13, 2013

What does CALEA have to say about transparency when a law-enforcement agency should be addressing the release of information to the public through media?

What's CALEA? It's the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department spent thousands of dollars (tens of thousands?) getting "accredited". And for what? So they could stone-wall the public, when it comes to reporting of crashes involving deputies?

Deputy-involved crashes may be considered of "great media interest", according to CALEA standards. Especially those crashes in which a deputy is at-fault.

Last week the squad car of a deputy in Crystal Lake was rear-ended. If the deputy was stopped in traffic at the time of the crash, that incident would be of "some" media interest. The public cares whether a deputy is injured in the line of duty, even if just sitting stopped in traffic. Not "great" media interest, but "some".

But the other crash last week? When a deputy is running "hot" to an alarm and rolls the squad car, that is an incident of "great media interest". It's unknown what effort the "media" made to obtain details. The crash occurred on Friday at 10:45PM. The Northwest Herald didn't report it until mid-day on Tuesday. Either MCSD withheld the information from the media, or the media had the crash information and withheld it from the public. Which way was it? Will the public ever know?

A squad-car rollover crash took deputies off the road, so that they weren't available for calls (or other calls). Often, deputies will want to just "ride by" to see what happened, even if they aren't involved in the crash handling or investigation. How far out of their assigned districts did some go, if at all?

Are there clearly-defined guidelines in the CALEA manuals and General Orders at the Sheriff's Department for handling vehicle crashes involving squad cars? Do these guidelines direct staff about media releases? How is adequate "Road Patrol Coverage" handled, so that the service to the public is not interrupted. Back-up squads have to be re-assigned.

Obviously, a deputy who crashes enroute to a call never arrives. Other deputies have to cover that call, often from farther distances. Do off-duty deputies have to be brought in? At over-time rates?

General Orders in place at MCSD probably dictate when lights and sirens can be used when responding to calls. When I lived in Lakewood, Colo., Police Chief Pierce Brooks allowed lights and sirens only under extreme circumstances. That was in 1971, and he knew that running "hot" greatly increased risks. It certainly does no good for an officer to hurry and never arrive.

What good did it do for MCSD to spend those thousands of dollars for the CALEA certification? It made for an expensive plaque to put on the wall. Once the Standards are adopted, they should be met.

In this crash, were they?

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